Monday, August 20, 2001

Messages of peace, unity close Reunion

Organizers say festival's attendance surpassed last year's

By Amy Higgins
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Pastor Samuel Jackson Sr. of Avondale rejoices at the Black Family Reunion.
(Steven M. Herrpich photos)
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        Cincinnati's 13th annual Black Family Reunion Celebration ended Sunday with messages of understanding and unity, peace and praise.

        “We've got to praise the young people wherever they are and for whatever they do,” Debra McMullen of Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church told the small crowd gathered for a morning worship service.

        The sparsely attended service kicked off what would become a crowded last day of the three-day event.

        Organizers said Sunday that crowd estimates were surpassing last year's estimated attendance of 250,000 at Sawyer Point for the concerts, forums and seminars.

        “I came down to hang out around positivity, and to enjoy myself without the negativity that's been flying around this city the last few months,” said Chicago White of East Walnut Hills, as the day drew to an end with a gospel concert and a ceremony honoring unsung heroes.

        The National Council for Negro Women started the Black Family Reunion 16 years ago to challenge reports of the demise of the black family.

Kevin McFadden & Redeemed of Baltimore perform gospel music.
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        In years past, the event has been held at regional gatherings nationwide, but for the second straight year it is scheduled only for Cincinnati and Washington, D.C. A Midwestern celebration has been in Cincinnati for 13 years; it settled here because Procter & Gamble was originally a major sponsor.

        The event's founder, Dorothy Height, opened the celebration Friday by saying that Cincinnati needed the reunion's message of hope and unity more than ever because of the civil unrest in April that followed the police shooting of an unarmed black teen-ager.

        Zion Hill's the Rev. Carl McMullen closed the morning's worship service saying such incidents can be avoided if people learn to look past skin color, as God does.

        “Regardless of what color you are, I love you because God loves you,” he said.


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